Ruben Östlund

TIFF 2014: ‘Force Majeure’ is a searing and knotty satire of masculinity

The folly and arrogance of masculinity is harshly scrutinized in Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, an intense and intelligent domestic drama that asks some cutting questions about modern gender roles. High up in the French Alps, a family of four slowly crumbles after an instant of cowardice manifests itself and continues to marinate over the course of five days. That the act takes places in just the first 10 minutes and slowly festers up until the last few scenes speaks volumes about Östlund as a stylist.

Cannes 2014: ‘Force Majeure’ shows maximum control from the powerfully subtle Östlund

Ruben Östlund’s powerful tale of moral expectations begins in a pure-white canvas as a photographer cheekily moves the family through mundane vacation picture poses. The camera, though already framing excellently in 2.35, swerves along with the family of skiers to create a silent, elegant painting of action. Scenes are often shot in long-take, though the conversations they encompass may elevate its transfixing pace. It’s slow, droll, and has the visual competency of an action film which sets it up initially as a natural black comedy. However, an instigating event suddenly transforms relationships within the nuclear family and beyond adding a significant undercurrent of tension that’s been rightly compared to The Loneliest Planet. From a storytelling and tonal perspective, it’s a different kind of beast that relies and succeeds through timing the combinations of drama’s basic components.

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